National Nurses Week: IP Bodie
A story of a nursing trailblazer
By: Shelly Loos, VP of Marketing
Historically, nursing was one of few occupations to which women could both aspire and achieve. I knew this before I learned it in school. My mom was a nurse and she really drilled it into my head that I was lucky. I could do anything I wanted to do. I think that is true for most of us now, but it was an entirely different story for a black woman in 1940’s Miami.
One of my best friends, Jennifer Davis, grew up in Miami’s black Overtown neighborhood. She was adopted (40 some years ago) by a single mother and nurse at Jackson Hospital. Jennifer’s mom, Irma Pauline Bodie, is the nurse we remember and thank today.
Irma Pauline Bodie, or IP as her her friends and family called her, was raised by a Bahamian mother and Jamaican father who moved to Miami in 1915 and had eight children. IP was the fourth. She was born in Miami Overtown during the height of Miami’s Black Renaissance period when many famous black entertainers such as Josephine Baker, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday and Redd Fox performed at Miami Beach clubs and were forced to overnight at the “Colored Town” aka Overtown Sir John’s Hotel.
The family eventually settled in the Miami “the projects” at 62nd Street & 12th Avenue, now called Liberty Square. Out of the eight children, IP was the most studious and driven. She attended Booker T. Washington – primary and high school and went onto Bethune-Cookman College. And later, IP was accepted into the Grady Hospital School of Nursing at Georgia State University in Atlanta. She graduated from Grady’s three-year program in 1943.
After receiving her Registered Nurse License, IP relocated back to Miami to be closer to her aging mother. Initially, IP worked at the first Miami-Dade Public Hospital in Kendall, Fla., as an ER nurse on the 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. shift. The Kendall hospital closed in 1964, and IP was transferred to Jackson Memorial Hospital where she would work for more than 40 years.
When asked if IP spoke of obstacles in her career, Jennifer said, “There were many obstacles she faced throughout her career –especially being a woman and black. She shielded me from most, but I do remember as a teenager hearing her frustrations of being passed over for promotions.”
It may have taken IP longer than it should have, but Jennifer said her mother was resilient and persevered. In 1974, 30 years after graduating from Grady she earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing from Florida International University. IP was eventually named Charge Nurse and then promoted to Manager of the Jackson Hospital Outpatient Ambulatory Unit.
“As a woman today, in a society where I am privileged to see many women in key roles and careers that were predominately held by males, I smile knowing that my mother was a trailblazer in her own way,” said Jennifer. “Often, I stop and take a step back when things are crazy and I ask myself; ‘Jen, are you saving lives here?’ Well, without a shadow of a doubt I know that Irma P. Bodie had a hand in saving many lives in Miami. I’m extremely proud to be her daughter and to have been given the gift to join her for part of her journey.”
IP was the first single black woman to legally adopt a child in the State of Florida when she adopted Jennifer in 1968. She purchased a home, was a founding member of the all-Black Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Miami, a proud member of the sorority, Sigma Gamma Rho and a devoted Girl Scout Brownie Leader for more than 10 years.
Thank you, IP. Thank you for your early and hard fought contributions to nursing and your amazing contributions to South Florida.
(I would also like to thank you for raising a great woman – my friend Jennifer Davis)